Monday, December 14, 2015

Warm Feelings

This week was for starting on a new sweater for myself and hanging out knitting with my sister.

The sweater pattern is Sawyer, featured in the BT Men Vol. 2 lookbook. I like all the sweater patterns in this collection, but this particular one jumped out at me. Thanks to a generous gift card for Hill Country Weavers that I received from dear friends upon becoming a gentleman of a certain age, I was able to get the suggested Brooklyn Tweed Shelter for this project. And, because I thought the particular shade used in the lookbook sample was pleasing to the eye and jibed with my palette, I went with that, too. So the sometimes agonizing worrying over choosing the right fiber and color was easily taken care of.

However, this stitch pattern, while easy to execute and memorize, is a bear if you drop a stitch. Every other stitch is knitted into the stitch below the needle on the right side in order to get the thick textured effect. But woe be unto you if you wander off pattern. It's really hard to fix. At least four times I've noticed a spot a few rows below where I've repeated a stitch and thrown off the whole diagonal effect. I can't seem to figure out how to correct these with a crochet hook without the diagonal pattern looking broken and weird afterwards. I just have to tink back and start over. But on the upside, I am getting a bit better about paying attention to what I'm doing.

Today, I did what I resolved a few posts back and got together with my sister to practice knitting. It was fun to sit and give her tips -- seeing her instinctively do the same things that I did as a beginner knitter. She's a natural continental knitter (yay!) and she knocked out several ridges of respectable garter stitch as we sat and chatted about family, school, work, our families, our dogs. Our Christmas gift to each other is to make time to get together and do more of what we did today. I'm excited to think about what she'll do with knitting. Oh, and our oldest nephew hung out with us too, just back from his first semester in college. He seemed to be settling in to the swing of things quite well.

Next week we'll be off to see my brother's family for Christmas in Germany, with a little side trip around the New Year. Hopefully, I'll have some knitterly news to post while we're there.

Merry Christmas and happy holidays everyone! Here's hoping you have something handknit to keep you warm and fond memories of time spent with those you love.

Saturday, November 28, 2015

No Mean Feets

The past few weeks have left me little time for the needles, but I have managed to get a few things completed.

First of all, are these stranded slippers, called baffies in Scottish parlance. They're the first pattern in the Seven Skeins club I subscribed to recently. I was going to postpone making these until later in the new year, but I wanted to make something handknit for a friend of mine with a November birthday and I thought these would be just the thing. I hope you like them, Mary Peace!

They're pretty easy to make. Although you can see I had some tension issues, they're really not as different in size as they appear in this photo. They're made toe-up until the garter stitch striped heel. That's worked flat and then joined with a three-needle bind-off. Then it's finished off with an applied I-cord edging. A smart design, really. The white color is called Ptarmigan and the other is called Highland Coo after the shaggy cows of The Highlands. But everyone in Austin thinks it's UT Burnt Orange. I have to admit it's pretty close!

I've also finally gotten around to completing the first of my Domino socks using the ombré-spun Crazy Zauberball yarn I got in Maryland. The rainy, gloomy weather in north Texas this long holiday weekend has given me plenty of time to catch up with this project. It's been on the needles for months. I usually pick it up when something else gets too big or complicated to be easily portable, so I hadn't been working on it with any regularity. The black toes and afterthought heel are a bamboo/wool/silk combination called Panda Silk. This yarn would look better on 2mm needles instead of the 2.25mm that the rest of the sock is knit with, but it'll do. I turned once again to Janelle's excellent instructions for an afterthought heel. So helpful! One more sock to go...

I'm getting pulled in a lot of directions inspiration-wise. I've got my eye on a pullover pattern, I need to make a hat for a friend, I'm kicking around blanket ideas, and I've been wanting to try my hand at a houndstooth double-knit scarf. There's never not something to knit!

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Happy Birthday, Sis!

I finished the Miss Grace Shawl this week and gave it to my sister for her birthday. I think she likes it!

My sister is five years younger than me, so we never really overlapped at the same schools. But we now live in the same city, and while we talk and visit and follow each other on social media, we don't get together as often as we should. That can happen as siblings get older. But it doesn't have to.

My sister is a pretty amazing and inspiring person to me. She picked a kind and smart husband, has raised two responsible, bright kids, and has taught elementary music to hundreds of kids over the years. Our parents died at fairly young ages, which can be hard when you're just starting a family of your own. Susan has coped and carried on through it all. I'm amazed when I think of us all as little kids and how she and I and our brother have all created such different and interesting lives. I guess things have always been that way. Maybe you have to reach a certain age to appreciate this change? I wonder how I'll look back on all this from a vantage point even further along someday.

I was kind of stunned looking at the pictures I took of my beautiful sister modeling the shawl -- thinking about all me and my siblings have been through, and how very much she looks like our mother. Very fitting that this pattern is called Miss Grace -- that was our mother's name. And Susan wears both mantles well. She reminds me, so, so much of Mom.

And she had some news -- this just warms the cockles of my crafting heart -- she's been learning to knit! Her neighbor has been helping her learn, and we will soon be setting up a time to get together for some handwork and some reminiscing, like our mom and my aunts, like my grandmother and her friends. I can't wait to see what cool things she'll create. Happy birthday, Susan!

On the pattern itself, I can highly recommend it. As Staci said, it's just about the most fun you can have with garter stitch. I love how the instructions are as much an infographic as a pattern, and it's cool watching how the forms distort and cause the fabric to flow in different ways. Oh, and I sent in my picture from my last blog post and got in the top 10 of SKEINO's photo contest! I would follow Staci's instructions on the increases on the corners for the edging -- I didn't care for the method written in the pattern so much, although I did it. And be careful -- I had only a yard or two of the light color leftover at the end.


Saturday, October 24, 2015

The Shape of Things to Come

When I can during these past few busy weeks, I've been knitting sporadically on the purple Miss Grace shawl. But like center-out lace patterns, all the quick business happens on the front end. As the piece gets bigger, each new row takes longer and longer to complete, with more and more interruptions for all the short-row shaping. On the upside, though, there are more interesting pattern features emerging now that I'm working my way up. Starting with two stitches, I'm now up to 148. I should end up with 220, give or take a few, so I have some long days of garter stitch ahead.

Still not sure there that there is enough contrast between the base color which is a darker, slightly more solid purple (left ball of yarn in photo) and Color 2, the more neon-like deep purple (bottom ball). The more pinky-purple Color 1 sticks out just fine, and I find myself looking forward to the rows where I get to work with this stand-out and oh-so-not-me hue.

I may not have mentioned that I signed up for Kate Davies' Seven Skeins Club, which includes seven skeins (duh) of her new Buachaille yarn line in each of the beautiful colors, which arrived a few weeks ago. Then, each week for six weeks we are sent links to two patterns to choose from. Choosing one each week will go through the yarn sent. If I'd cleared my knitting dance card beforehand, I might have tried, but I gave myself permission not to panic and try to do these on any kind of schedule. I'm enjoying seeing them come in and am making plans based on what I've seen so far. Closer to the holidays, I'll receive a book with all the patterns in it. I love her stranded knitting designs and am looking forward to what will be revealed over the next few weeks.

Hope all you knitters are enjoying some fall (or spring?) knitting. And I hope all my central Texas friends are enjoying all of this wonderful rain!

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Teaching and Learning

One of my neighbors whom we see often on our dog walks, asked if I would teach him to knit when I saw him yesterday. He knows I'm a knitter since I'd made a blanket and some toys for his little sister. He has just learned to finger crochet at school, so I cut him a deal. I would teach him to knit if he would teach me to finger crochet. He thought that sounded fair, and with his parents' permission made an appointment for today at 2:30 -- an oddly specific time for a 7-year-old.

Right on time he pulled up on his bike. I've never really taught anyone to knit from scratch, but I figured we should start with a cast-on. I wasn't sure if he could handle a long-tail, but after a few tries he dug right in. In just half an hour he had cast on and done two rows of knitting! Then it was my turn to learn finger crochet using some bright chenille yarn he bright to our lesson. It was fun and he was an excellent teacher -- I learned a thing or two about patience from him, that's for sure. Then I got a bonus lesson in paper airplane making! After an hour or so of flying planes across the driveway, it was time to head home. I sent him off with some needles and yarn and an invitation to let me know if he needs more help. His mom reports via text that he had a great time. I sure hope so. He's a great kid.

In other knitting news, while knitting with friends yesterday morning, my friend (and quasi-cousin) Abbe presented me with a reprint edition of Dave Fougner's 1972 work, The Manly Art of Knitting. The cover photo alone makes this perfect. It's only 63 pages long. It covers a bit of history, the basic skills, some stitch pattern instruction, and a few simple but quite varied patterns. Along with the usual hat, there are patterns for a dog bed, a hammock, and a horse blanket! Best of all, there is a 4-item bibliography, including one item that I just found using my college's JSTOR subscription (Grass, Milton N. "The origins of the art of knitting." Archaeology (1955): 184-190.) There's a special tingle one gets when the boundaries between knitting and librarianship blur. Well, for this librarian/knitter at least. Thanks for thinking of me, Abbe. I love it!

And finally, I got started on the Miss Grace shawl I mentioned last post. I'm making it in three shades of purple variegated yarn in a 4-skein packet that Skeino calls Barb. So far, Barb and I are getting along. I'm not sure that two of the colors are different enough to show enough contrast, but that could change after I get more of the fabric made.

It's such a cool concept -- striped garter stitch with short row leaf-shaped "forms" that still manage to keep the whole thing in a triangle shape. I've had a hard time interpreting some of the instructions, which in most cases can be chalked up to me not really reading the instructions carefully. I've found that Staci's tutorial has been invaluable for when I get stuck. I kind of wish I'd watched it all the way through from the get-go.

So a bit of teaching and a lot of learning this week, bearing witness to a certain truism. The more I learn, the more I know how much I don't know.


Monday, October 05, 2015

Gray Areas

Since my last post, I've just been knitting stockinette stitch on my Shadows & Light v-neck sweater. There were some rocky moments, but I persevered and finished it up while here at a conference in Arkansas.

I fell out of love with this project about the time I started the sleeves. I got tired of all the stockinette for sure, but I also began to think that the variegation was starting to look a bit too much like camouflage -- which is a look, but not for me. And, I worried that it might be too snug. But I kept going, and by the time I was ready to head to a library conference late last week, I had all the pieces done. So I packed them, thinking I might have some time to start piecing it together.

Turns out, I had quite a bit of time on my hands the first few days here, so I got to work. And as I did, I started liking it more and more. Although many knitters don't, I really do like seaming up garments. That neat and tidy mattress stitch on the sides, especially. This sweater has set-in sleeves, which might seem scary, but really aren't. You just have to pay attention to where you need to shift from a mattress-like seam near the armpits to a more selvedge-to-cast-off sea near the shoulders -- and then trying to be consistent on both arms. I messed up one of the arms, but it was no problem to pick out the seam and redo it. Better to do that now than let it gnaw on me every time I wear it. One shoulder does still look a bit tortured lying flat, but it's fine when I'm wearing it. Not so sure I'm totally in love with the 1x1 ribbed collar, but I'll live with it a while and think about it. I have plenty of yarn for modifications. I bought four hanks of this stuff and only used two! Exactly two, with nothing left over. I've been wearing it today during my meetings. Even though it will be nearly 80 outside, it's much, much colder in the meeting rooms.

While here in Little Rock, I took some time to visit a yarn shop in the Pulaski Heights neighborhood called The Yarn Mart. Much more interesting than that other retailer from Arkansas with "mart" in its name! Very friendly staff with a fun attitude (see sign) and a very uncluttered space, unlike some shops. There was a lively rug hooking class going on while I shopped around. I ended up buying some Madeline Tosh fingering merino yarn in a mottled golden-brown in a color way called Twig. Not sure if it would make good socks. Right now I'm thinking hat.

Up next, I'm thinking of tackling a shawl for which I already have the yarn, Miss Grace. Love that name! Staci tells me it's the most fun you can have with garter stitch. Can't wait to get home and get started.

Saturday, September 05, 2015

Both Sides Now

When I've had a chance to sit down and knit in the past month, which hasn't been often, I've been slowly working on my Shadows and Light v-neck.

I finished the back several weeks ago, following the dimensions listed in The Knitters Handy Book of Sweater Patterns. When I held it up, didn't hold up. It was too short. My knitting friends and Jeff all agreed -- it needed another inch and a half. I should have anticipated this modification. My brother and I have a four inch difference in height, but we have the same inseam. All the difference is between my hips and my shoulders. I think I have chunky Neanderthal vertebrae.

So I started the armholes for the front side of the sweater 1.5 inches higher with the idea of comparing later. Much better. So now the plan is to rip back to the start of the armholes and add those extra rows, and then finish up. I'm hoping that I'll have some time to get that mostly accomplished while visiting the in-laws this holiday weekend in north Texas.

I'm eager to get this finished. And I'm eager for some cooler weather. Bring it on, Mother Nature. I'll be ready.

Friday, August 07, 2015


I'd been trying to find a good pattern for some yarn I bought at the Marylamd Sheep & Wool Festival a few months ago, but I kept running into obstacles. Using Ravelry, I'd find patterns I liked, but most of them were in pattern pamphlets that wouldn't be easy to get my hands on. I found one that I thought was interesting, but when I got started I quickly realized the yarn didn't want to do what the pattern required. The shiny smoothness of the Spirit Trail Fiberworks Brigantia wasn't liking the cabled patterns I was drawn too. I started at different needle sizes three times before I decided to change course.

I have a book that I refer to from time to time when I want to make a minor modification to a pattern , but I've never knit a whole garment from it before. It's The Knitter's Handy Book of Sweater Patterns by Ann Budd. It's a recipe approach to knitting a sweater. You choose the style (raglan, drop-sleeve, saddle-shoulder, etc.), find your yarn/needle gauge, and then your'e off to the races with instructions in a table format. After my various attempts above, I decided I'd make a plain, v-neck sweater with set-in sleeves using this book and just let the yarn shine. The silk content certainly helps with that last bit. The colorway is called Shadows & Light, so that's how I'm going to refer to the sweater, I think.

I couldn't quite get gauge for the size 42 sweater I need, so I checked the numbers, and mine matched the size 46 instructions. So far so, good -- the back is exactly 21" wide with 116 stitches. I could cast on any way I pleased, so I chose the tubular cast-on using Staci's instructional video. Yes, it's fiddley, but I love the way it looks. I always feel that long-tail cast-on edges have a certain fragility about them . The tubular cast-on feels more durable to me, plus it has just the right amount of stretchiness and a clean, tidy, rounded appearance. Well worth it, I think. After adding the v-neck ribbing, I plan to attempt a tubular cast-off to match.

Speaking of recipes -- I got a great one at the family reunion I attended last weekend. My cousin Sandra (first cousin, once removed, technically) made a framed copy of my Great Grandma-Weaver's yeast roll recipe, which I won in the auction. Grandma Weaver was kind of known for these and her biscuits. Sandra remembers her coming over and making these. I asked about how many this yielded and she guessed about three dozen, which would have worked well for a family with 11 children, I suppose. My aunts remembered her as not being especially tidy in the kitchen and always being covered in flour after baking, a tradition I'm sure to continue when I attempt this. I love everything about this, from the fact that she typed it (she had bad arthritis in her later years and couldn't write easily), to the misspellings and typos, to her sugar brand loyalty. And, you can tell it's one of those old-school typewriters on which you had to use a capital "I" as the number 1.

So, I have a few recipes I need to get working on. One involves rows and rows of gray stockinette stitch. The other calls for yeast cakes. Does yeast even come in cakes anymore?

Saturday, July 25, 2015

We Come 'Round Right

I'm going to be attending a reunion of my grandmother's family, the Weavers & Armstrongs, next weekend. She was one of eleven children, so as you might imagine, it's quite a crowd. My early memories of summer visits to Texas involve this reunion, and being greeted by dozens of people whom I'd never met, but who all seemed to know me and my place in this large group. It's a day for warm memories, great food, bad jokes and just catching up. I love it.

To raise money for renting the space and catering some of the food, relatives bring handmade items to be auctioned off in a silent auction -- or maybe not so silent -- we are talking about Weavers here. Items can run the gamut from preserves and jams, to handmade quilts and wooden toys, My contribution this year is a set, or possibly two sets, of Shaker Dishcloths as designed by Staci Perry at VeryPink. I made some versions of these in placemat and coaster sizes a few summers back.

Because I went rogue and chose a different yarn than the pattern called for, I had to make an adjustment. This yarn, Cascade UltraPima, while beautifully shiny, is a bit on the thin side for this project. This picture shows what was going on -- a strange gappiness right before the color change, most noticeable in the white (see photo). I tried going down a few needle sizes, but didn't like that. I settled on wrapping the slipped stitches, like one might do on a short row heel on a sock. Then I tweaked things even more by twisting the wraps just before knitting them together with their accompanying stitches. This added a bit more density to the final row, but I preferred that to the weird laciness I was seeing.

In other projects, I'm working on a pair of ombré socks using the Crazy Zauberball yarn I got in Pennsylvania in May. I love just working the 2x2 ribbing. You can't really get a matched pair with this yarn, but I did at least want to keep the patterning a bit more symmetrical, so I'm going to use afterthought heels in solid black. The toes, too. That way, even though they'll be striped quite differently, they still have the same heels and toes and look a bit more like a pair. That's the plan anyway. We'll see how that pans out.

Sunday, July 19, 2015

The Braid-y Bunch

I finished what I think will be the last installment of my knitted pillow project. If you've been following along at home, I was originally going to make three, but a gauge problem saw me buying an extra (smaller) square pillow form, so I just had to knit another. And the extra pillow ended being the Celtic Knit Aran Pillow, finished this afternoon.

I loosely used a pattern that appeared in Canadian Living that I saw on Ravelry -- with some modifications. The pattern says it makes a 16"x16" pillow. I had a 14"x14" form, so I went down a needle size (US 6, 4mm) and trusted that the worsted Cascade 220 I was using would be a bit thinner than the Aran weight called for in the original. And it worked. The original also called for a split back with buttons But I didn't like how all the examples gapped around the buttons in the back. This can be fixed with a bit of ribbon, but the whole thing was shaping up to be way more fiddley than I was in the mood for. Ain't nobody got time for that. I was mostly interested in the braided Celtic knot motif, anyway.

After getting 14" of the cable pattern finished, I continued knitting plain stockinette for another 14". After blocking (see right), I used an invisible horizontal seam to join the top and bottom. I don't know about you, but mine are always quite visible. Perhaps I tension the yarn too tightly? Then I just seamed up the sides. Just before sewing up the final side, I found a place on the back where I hadn't caught all of the yarn and it looked quite weak. To reinforce things, I darned a bit of yarn across this spot on the inside. That was close. It's a little noticeable when you rub your hands over it, but not too bad.

So what was originally meant to be a series of quick springtime projects dragged quite far into the summer. I'm overall pretty happy with how these turned out, even if I'm not so sure about the colors going together. I've never really trusted my color sense -- and it doesn't help that I'm drawn to grays and browns. But I think they'll do. In any case, Pona seems pleased. I hope he lets me enjoy looking at them for a while before he chews them up. I can almost see the wheels spinning in that tiny little head of his.

Next up -- yet another pair of socks.


Wednesday, July 08, 2015

Buttoned Down

Who's got the button? Me -- and two of the pillows I recently knit.

I'd been fretting about buttons for these pillows, especially the round Spiral Galaxy Pillow, for some time. I looked for a fancy glass button at the Maryland Sheep & Wool Festival this year, but couldn't find anything I liked. As I thought about it, I decided I wanted it too look like those old shiny, silky pillows my grandmother had in her living room, with a button out of the same fabric. Something to draw it all together, but that wouldn't steal the show. For the just-completed Smocked Rib Stitch Pillow, I needed buttons to rein in the end caps, which were being pushed out by the pillow form and were decidedly nipple-ish. Not a good look.

Knitted buttons made from the same yarn as the pillows themselves would be the way to go. So while running errands this morning, I stopped by Bolt Fabrics and got some Dritch cover button kits and heavy upholstery twine. The salesperson was so helpful to walk me though the process. It was pretty obvious I was in over my head.

Based on our conversation, I realized that my knitted covers would be too thick to snap on the backs. Kindly, Jeff sacrificed an old brown t-shirt so the buttons would have a base that wouldn't let the metal shine through. Then, I knit some small covers using matching yarn and constructed as follows:

  • Cast on 4 stitches
  • Purl a row
  • Increase one inside each edge stitch every right-side row until 12 ston needle
  • Make two rows plain
  • Decrease one inside each edge stitch every right-side row until 4 st on needle
  • Bind off

I ran the tails through the inside edge of every other selvedge stitch around the edge and drew the cover in tightly. And, voila -- a knit-covered button!

I found some instructions on sewing buttons on pillows and away I went. Drawing the thick twine through the long pillow was a bit of a chore, and upholsterers would probably have a special tool for such purposes, but I can report that a seaming needle, squishing hard and grunting can work in a pinch.

Way easier than I thought it would be and I'm happy with the results. Now, I have one more naked pillow form to get covered...

Sunday, July 05, 2015

Smock and Awe

A flash of genius and a little help from my friends helped me all but finish my Smocked Rib Stitch Pillow this weekend.

I had some real hiccups with this, mostly because I was making it up as I went along. The crochet provisional cast on worked, but it didn't unzip correctly. Which I should have anticipated if I'd thought a bit harder about it. Flipping the yarn back and forth over the chain to k2p2 meant pulling all the yarn through a loop every other stitch when trying to remove it. What should have taken 3 seconds ended up taking an hour.

Then I tried to focus on seaming the thing together by grafting the 2x2 ribbing. Staci has excellent instructions for doing this, but I just kept messing it up. I have regular stockinette Kitchener grafting so stuck in my head that I couldn't get the rhythm. And the squished together stitches made it hard to see what I was doing. I must have started and stopped four times. I grumbled about this with my knitting crew, and they convinced me that a 3-needle bind-off would work just fine. And they were right. Not totally invisible, but not too jarring. And it's a tube, right? The seam can always be rolled out of view.

The part I was on my own with was the end caps. I wanted round pieces, which aren't the easiest thing to do in knitting. I toyed with the idea of crocheting round pieces, but thought the styles would be too different. So I went with Elizabeth Zimmerman's pi method, wherein the number of stitches is doubled after the number of rows has doubled. I'm sure I learned some theorem or proof about this in Mr. Ashorn's geography class back in high school, but if so I've since forgotten. The basics are:

  • Start with 8 stitches
  • Knit a round (2 rds) then double the no. of stitches (16 st)
  • Knit until 4 rds from previous increase then double the no. (32 st)
  • Knit until 8 rds from previous increase then double the no. (64 st.)
  • Knit until 16 rds from previous increase then double the no. (128 st)

I ended up knitting one more round just to tidy things up. The 128 stitches around the end panel happened to be only four fewer than the 132 stitches on the selvedge edge of the tube -- 11 repeats of the 12-row motif. I didn't plan this -- math, geometry, gauge and tension just worked out in this case. I couldn't have planned it.

Then I needed to figure out how to get this attached. I had live stitches on the end pieces, which needed to be both bound off and attached, so I did what amounted to a combination gusset pickup and bind off. I put the needle through a live stitch on the end panel, grabbed yarn through a selvedge stitch from the tube, pulled it through both, then bound it off on the next stitch. This created a nice exposed crochet chain edge, that was almost one-for-one between the two pieces. Every 32 stitches I skipped one and the count lined up perfectly.

The first panel was easier than the second, because I had to have the pillow form stuffed inside for the latter. And I don't think I'm quite done. The form poofs out a bit on the ends, making the pillow look like one of those canisters you put in the pneumatic tube at a bank drive-through. I'm thinking of pulling them in with some upholstery buttons.

I like how the smocking pattern makes it look like the pillow is covered with dragonflies when viewed at the angle in the first photo above. Very appropriate now that our sultry Texas summers seem to have finally arrived. Hope you're enjoying your summer as much as I am!


Sunday, June 21, 2015

Socks and Smocks

Uh, hi.

A topsy-turvey work schedule, along with a professional meeting, a chorus concert, a mini-vacation and getting the interior of our house painted, have all conspired to make knitting a rare thing lately. For weeks all I did was work on a pair of socks on Saturday morning with my regular knitters. That was it. Two hours a week for nearly a month. And it really bugged me. But this weekend I dusted off the cobwebs, literal and figurative and mental, and resumed some semblance of momentum.

Yesterday, I finished the Moorish Stripe Socks, one of the Six-Stitch Stranded Patterns from Charlene Schurch's More Sensational Knitted Socks. I used the yarn I bought at The Quilted Skein in La Grange when I visited with Leah Wilson King back in March.

I think these turned out fine. I did do the gussets differently on each sock, a danger when the two are knit so far apart. You can see the one on the left above has a gold line on the top of the gusset that the other doesn't have. I also managed to repeat an extra row on the sole/instep of the second sock, but didn't catch it unti just before,working the star toe. Oh, well. I'm over it now that I've confessed. My sock model, who normally doesn't go in for handknit socks, declared these "wonderfully soft" and that he wouldn't mind a pair like these. Maybe it was because the gold color has silk in it? He better not hold his breath. It may be a while before I tackle stranded knit socks again.

After completIng that pair, I started right away on another installment of my knitted pillow project. I'd toyed with the idea of a honeycomb cable for a bolster pillow, but wasn't sold. Staci suggested I take a look at a smocked rib pattern that she'll be posting an instructional video for soon. She graciously sent me the instructions and I've set to work. The idea I have is to knit this with a provisional cast on so that I can graft it closed once the tube is the right circumference. However, this means that I had to both knit and purl into the provisional crochet chain. No easy feat, that. I had to use a tiny crochet hook to help get the purl stitches on the knitting needles. And it took forever. And I have to find instructions for grafting 2x2 ribbing. I'm sure that's a thing (he said, without ever having checked).

But it's going well now. All the fiddliness happens every six rows, way better than what I would have faced with honeycomb stitch. And I like the pattern it makes. It reminds off the gathered fabric I've seen on top of old sewing boxes.

So something finished and something started. Here's hoping that my slump is over.

Saturday, May 09, 2015

Maryland Sheep & Wool Festival

This spring has been so busy, with little time for knitting, and even less for blogging about it. But for the first time in 10 years, I was able to slip away for a few beautiful days and attend the Maryland Sheep & Wool Festival. It was the perfect long weekend.

I stayed with Sharon and Janelle and family. (See her excellent account of the day.) The day before the festival, Janelle graciously drove me around the Mason-Dixon Line southwest of Gettysburg, PA, looking for a place called as Shockey's Cave, the lair of a notorious counterfeiter in my ancestry.

We never did find it, but we did find a shop called The Knitting Cottage near Waynesboro, PA. The owners were very sweet and I ended up getting some Schoppel-Wolle Crazy Zauberball sock yarn (at bottom of picture below), which I've always wanted to try, plus a recent issue of Knitting Traditions dedicated to patterns based on exploration and adventure travel. Knitting and exploration and history? Yes, please.

The next day we got up bright and early to beat the crowds to the festival. Janelle is always so organized about these things. I was a bit overwhelmed and mostly just followed her around as she checked off her list of vendors to visit. But along the way, I found a few things. My superpower seems to be going into a shop or booth full of colorful yarn and coming out with the only gray skein in the place.

For example, at the Hobbledehoy booth I found a BFL superwash in a light gray (right) that was put up in a 250g skein -- perfect for extra long socks, or socks with elaborate cables. And at the Spirit Trail Fiberworks booth I dithered and hemmed and hawed and finally committed to several skeins of Brigantia, a Polworth(85%)/Silk(15%) DK-weight yarn in a steely blue-gray with slight hints of a greenish-yellow that I'm thinking of using for one of the new Brooklyn Tweed men's designs (left). In between we got to eat kettle corn, see dozens of sheep breeds (and other fiber-bearing animals like rabbits and alpacas), see spinning demonstrations, and meet up with many of Janelle's local knitting friends.

Local knitting friends was what the next day was all about. Several of the Gettysburg knitters came over to Sharon & Janelle's house for knitting and chatting. A very talented bunch, to be sure. It was fun to compare notes on the day and just relax. It was good to meet all these women. I even got to drink "the pink stuff," their official group beverage.

So much more happened this weekend -- great meals, relaxing walks, student tumbling exhibitions, art shows, a family book group discussion, and a gamelan rehearsal and performance. I even got to try my hand at weaving on Janelle's Cricket loom and brought home the resulting coasters. But despite being so busy, I came back quite refreshed.

My thanks to Sharon, Janelle and family for a wonderful weekend. I won't wait 10 years for the next trip.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Spiral Galaxy Pillow

I finished up the second installment of my springtime throw pillow project today. Or at least I think I have.

This pattern knits up much faster than I thought it would. And used much less yarn. It's a pretty simple three-round pattern. Increases happen in every one of the 15 segments on each round, but decreases happen in only two out of three rounds. This makes the spirals fan out in a rather gradual manner. Basically, you just keep this up until there are 17 stitches in each segment. Oh, and then you do the whole thing again for the second side, of course.

Putting it together started out rather tedious (I had 255 stitches to bind off), and then, about halfway round, descended into downright chaos. The two sides are joined with a 3-needle bind off. Usually, this is done on the wrong side of the work. But since you can't really knit on the inside of a soon-to-be enclosed space, this seam is exposed. About halfway around, I put the pillow form in. And then I happened to look down to see that I hadn't quite caught one of the stitches on the backside about 20 stitches earlier (caught with a greenish clip stitch marker in the picture). So I had to unseam backwards, while trying to keep the building pressure of the pillow form from popping the edge stitches out. I grabbed some DPNs to assist in corralling everything back together. I wanted to yell "clamp!" Like some surgeon on TV. Instead, I stopped for a few calming deep breaths and a picture before moving on. Disaster averted. Did I mention that the cables have started separating from the old Knit Picks interchangeable needles I got that when I first started knitting? That also involved over 40 dropped stitches and dropped profanities...

But all's well that ends well. And I think this is mostly finished. I still think this needs a big fat decorative button in the middle. I bought some wooden ones that I thought might do, but they're clearly the wrong type. They need to be the kind with the securing ring behind, not with holes visible from the front. And the yarn I have won't be able to withstand the springy force of this pillow form. So I'm thinking of taking it to an upholsterer for some guidance -- or to perhaps just do it for me. I'm not proud.

So, two pillows down -- one (or maybe two?) more to go. And I need to get back to those Moorish Stripe Socks.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Stripes and Spirals

The flowers are blooming, the weather is warming, and I'm entering into my annual springtime knitting slump. I still have projects that are grabbing my attention, but I just don't seem to have enough time to do much knitting. Plus, the looming warmer days put me off the idea of handknits. I'll get over that soon, I'm sure. In the meantime, I've made some progress I can share.

It may be a bit premature to post this, but I finished the first of the Moorish Stripe Socks. There were options for knitting pinstripes into the heel flap and the toes, but I decided for solid navy. As Tim Gunn might say, these socks are already "a lotta look," so having three solid patches gives me eyes a chance to catch their breath. I know I'm confusing senses and mixing metaphors there, but you get the idea. The hard part for me was realizing that the pattern across the instep is meant to be continued as if the gusset wasn't there, so that when the gusset does eventually draw together, it just disappears into the pattern. I didn't get that at first, overthought things, and ended up having to un-knit a few rounds to get back on track. Such a lot of fuss for something that will be covered by shoes most of the time, right? Now to cast on for the second one and do all this all over again before Second Sock Syndrome sets in.

I also got started, yesterday, on the second of my pillow projects, the Spiral Galaxy Pillow. I needed something round that would knit to 16". This one is scalable out to nearly any size, really. It's designed by Daniel Yuhas, appears in 10 Secrets of the LaidBack Knitters, and came to me through the magic of Interlibrary Loan. Thanks, Dallas Public Library!

It's knit from the center out and is pretty simple to follow. Except for the instructions about slipping stitches and moving markers around. I overthought those, too, starting over three times before figuring out that keeping the same number of stitches between the 15 spiral segments is really the goal here. The first side is about 10" across right now. I still have quite a bit of yarn left, but I also know that it gets eaten up faster and faster as the circumference grows. I'm thinking of putting a big button right in the middle of this. Maybe a big wooden one? Or maybe a knit-covered one?

Not to let sheep out of the bag, but as it happens, I have a little trip planned soon that will surely shake me out of my spring slump. More on that later...

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Texas Two-Step

After finishing my pillow, I found myself this week in a bit of a lull between projects. For the next pillow, I had the yarn but not the pattern. It's coming, but I'm at the mercy of the Interlibrary Loan system. For a runner I'd like to make, I have the pattern but haven't settled on the yarn. So I decided to fall back on my favorite thing to knit. Socks. I'm not a big yarn hoarder, but I always try to have some sock yarn around.

I decided to return to one of my Charlene Schurch books, More Sensational Knitted Socks for inspiration. There are several stranded patterns in this book that I haven't tried. And with good reason. They take twice the yarn and are thus twice as warm as normal handknit socks. Not exactly necessary in Texas. But some of the patterns intrigued me, and I had just purchased two skeins of yarn that would work well together.

The pattern is called Moorish Stripe. I like the little one-stitch lice pattern interspersed with the geometric stripes. On the foot, a much jazzier stripe that is a variation ofthe one on the cuff runs around the sole and instep -- pictures to follow when I get there. The tan color contrasts pretty well with the dark navy, but I think the effect might pop more if the contrast color were a variegated or semi-solid yarn. This is looking a little flat to me. I still like it, but if I do more of these stranded patterns I'll try to remember that.

I bought this yarn last week while I was on spring break. I met my childhood piano teacher and longtime friend Leah for lunch in La Grange. Non-Texans probably know La Grange from its most infamous business, but it's a great Texas small town with lots of little cafes and shops. One of its big draws is The Quilted Skein, just a block off the Fayette County courthouse square. It's right next to the Texas Quilt Museum, which unfortunately, was closed.

The Quilted Skein, which is dedicated almost equally between yarn and quilt fabrics, is one of the most beautiful yarn shops I've ever visited. Everything is new shiny wood, and the ceilings go up forever. The selection is really wide, with lots of yarns I'd never heard of. The back of the shop has large windows that overlook an intimate garden space. The staff were very friendly, too. I didn't get to meet the owner, Stephen, when I was there, but hope to get to on future trips. Because there will be many more trips down there, I'm sure.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Spring Break Squared

Turns out my college's spring break framed my latest knitting project from start to finish. I cast on just hours after getting home a week ago Friday, and finished sewing up the seams this morning. I'd been wanting to make some cabled pillows to match our duvet cover and had bought yarn in colors I liked in January. Then I got side tracked making toys and socks. But as spring break loomed I found a pattern with cables I liked -- the Christmas Cables Pillow.

The only thing that read "Christmas" about this was the red color, but I had to change a bit more than my mindset to make this work. I had already bought some pillow forms, and didn't have one in the 16" square size that the pattern was designed for. I "knew" I had a 12" one, so I swatched carefully with the needles and yarn I wanted to use and reduced the number of horseshoe cabled from 6 to 4 to get close to a 12"x12" square pillow and set to work.

It's really an easy pattern to memorize. The edges have a cable motif that crosses stitches on every right-side row, and the larger horseshoe cables only cross every eight rows. The whole thing is made in one long piece and then folded over the pillow form and seamed on three sides.

I worked along until it was a little over halfway done and then grabbed the pillow form to see how things were looking. The form that I'd had in mind (and now had in hand) was for a 14"x14" pillow. Sigh. For a while I played with the idea of just stretching the hell out of it during blocking, but figured it would just look too stretched and strained. The cables would have been distorted beyond recognition. So I bought a new 12"x12" form. And, looking on the bright side, I now have an additional pillow size to experiment with. Not exactly a win-win situation, but close.

The new pillow turned out fine, with just the right amount of stretch across the form. The edges of the pattern have built-in knit column runways perfect for mattress-stitch seams. And I was able to line up the cast-on and bind-off edge stitches so that they flow into each other on the final edge seam -- it doesn't look that different from the opposite, folded-over edge. I only had one cable snafu, but it wasn't too difficult to rip back and get on the needles, even without a lifeline. The looser-than-usual gauge helped with that.

So now, I get to troll around for some new pillow patterns on Ravelry. I have a 16" circular form (yes, I just double-checked the size!), so I think I'll tackle that next.